Book to Box Office: Fifty Shades of Grey

Here’s a Book to Box Office I’m not quite sure what to do with. I’ve decided to combine my review of the book and film here.

I realize this isn’t the only source you can get opinions about this highly controversial series by E.L James, but I’ll be damned if I don’t make my peace along with the rest.

It wasn’t that I was never interested in reading the book after it hit the best-seller list, it just wasn’t the science-fiction I was used to and therefore missed my opportunity to form an opinion before the hype of the novel became so notorious. That said, these are all of my original thoughts while reading the book and watching the film, despite what has been written about them online.

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The first thing I realized was that I really hated Kate, and I kind of hated Ana for putting up with her. Why were there two extremes of terrible role models in this book? The only other woman that takes presence is Ana’s mother and she’s just a hopeless romantic who chooses to nurse husband number 4’s wounds rather than attend her daughter’s graduation ceremony. Are we afraid of having strong, female protagonists? I understand this was fan-fiction and Ana is just another version of Bella Swan, but at some point someone has to stand up for this misinterpretation of women.

Kate probably could have been a great character. She’s strong-willed, confident, a fighter. But she was mostly represented as a bitch who makes Ana do her bidding and who questions Ana’s relationship without actually trying to offer advice besides “be careful”. Do something Kate!! She’s the closest one to Ana, yet seems so distant. Now that I think of it, this book could be re-written without her and I’m not sure it would really make a difference.

And Ana, well, she’s all kinds of messed up. Honey, it is NOT okay to let a man control you if it’s not what you want. Sure, I don’t argue exploring one’s sexuality within a defined relationship and with a trusted partner, but this was so far from that. Ana’s inner dialogue constantly let the reader know, that while she was thrilled to have the attention and to feel him there, she wasn’t sure it was what she wanted. Even Christian Grey was aware that she wasn’t totally comfortable with his behavior.

And Grey, well he has issues, a bad past or whatever. This is not an excuse to take a woman in bed or elsewhere when she hasn’t given full consent. She was attracted to him, obviously he’s attractive. And the things he did to her felt good. okay. This doesn’t make them right. Not to mention Christian’s unnerving stalker qualities. Why does no one question these things? Why doesn’t Ana?

Essentially, while reading this book I had a difficult time getting over the disturbing nature of each character. The sex scenes weren’t all together bad, but how the story led into these scenes simply made me angry. I was engaged with the development of Christian for a small portion of the book. He seemed to be developing as something more than the handsome and rich gentleman every woman already fantasizes about. I guess his past misery will stay a mystery. In the meantime, just know that he’s 1. really hot 2. filthy rich 3. a good guy at heart. He really is boring isn’t he?

I don’t mean to bash this book. With all of the negative reviews out there, a secret part of me wanted to prove to everyone that this was a revolutionary piece of literature. I’m glad a first time novelist was successful, I’m glad fan fiction got a nod, I’m glad that kinky sex was unabashedly described in this top-seller book. Only, I’m being a little extra harsh here because this book is in such a great place to bring exciting change to the literary industry. Instead, it followed the unimpressive characters – women who are only admired if they are weaker than men and men who are sexy, dangerous, and (honestly!) just misunderstood.

I give Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L James 2 Stars

2 Stars

Regardless of my disposition on the book, I went to see the film with an open mind. Again, this film is in a unique position to cater to female sexual fantasies when most film caters to men and their fantasies. Also, sexual awareness and acceptance of new and different sexual behaviors is another viral topic among millennials. The film was bound to break some kind of record, and hopefully make a solid point to film companies and moviegoers.

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It might be because I watched the movie after a ten-hour shift, but I couldn’t help but yawn. It was still boring, but thankfully it didn’t anger me the way the book did. It truly made a difference cutting out all of Anastasia’s “inner goddess” nonsense. With a female lead, I was pleased that the script or Dakota Johnson’s acting or a combination of both allowed Ana’s character some more depth than the book. She started out the squeaky, shy girl as expected, but the relationship really developed her blooming ferocity. Her relationship with Christian really drove her to decide what she wanted and Dakota Johnson really understood this. Slight changes in her behavior meant Ana was defining herself as a woman and wasn’t going to simply accept all kinds of abuse. Whereas in the novel, Ana’s inner voice would tell herself “I already knew I would.” There was more maturity without this kind of dialogue.

The sex scenes were mild. While there was a lot of female nudity, most scenes were short. It’s a good thing too because honestly there was no passion, no chemistry, absolutely no desire in these scenes. It was almost painful to watch. Perhaps the true pain was Christian’s (Jamie Dornan) stale personality, if he even had one. Dornan made it almost impossible for there to be any hint at chemistry between the two. He seemed far removed from the character and solely focused on the stone-like personality that Grey often hid behind.

I give Fifty Shades of Grey directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson, starring Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan  a 2.5 Stars

2.5 Stars

All in all, I agree with many critics of both the book and film. The series by E.L James pushes exciting, new boundaries. The actual story, its writing and plot, don’t quite deliver any exemplary points. Nothing that says, “look here, look at this one important thing.” Mostly there is a continuing tragedy in the submissiveness of women and the social conflict of men overpowering women and getting away with it. The film takes some positive strides with a little rebellion in Ana’s character, but in the end of it all there’s not much to take away from the book or the movie

Check it out on Goodreads

Check it out on Imbd

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Guardians of the Galaxy – Marvel’s Comic Success

I like comic books, but I’ve never been an avid reader of them for no known reason.

I picked up the first comic of the new Guardians of the Galaxy: Galaxy’s Most Wanted (001) at a local comic store. I had high expectations for the comic, and while I enjoyed it, I didn’t even write a review on it because I was slightly disappointed.

GoTGcomic

I went to see the movie when it came out. It was the best film I’ve seen in years. And that’s what I really want to talk about – how Marvel kicked ass and why Guardians of the Galaxy is the best film this year. It’s kind of like  a Book to Box Office, so I feel completely justified sharing this with you.

You don’t put a group of lost idiots and misfits in spaceship and send them to fight off the biggest threat in the galaxy…. unless you’re Marvel. There’s so much wrong with this picture – Where’s Hermione? Yoda? Gandalf? Someone with knowledge and experience!! Instead we have Peter Quill aka “Star Lord” – the lost child, reckless in his affairs, Rocket – an angry Frankenstein creation with a vengeance, his partner in crime Groot – the gentle giant with fierce power, Gamorah – tortured and bitter runaway, and lastly Drax -murderous, burdened with the loss of his family. Quill said it best when he called the group losers. They’ve all lost something immensely important to them, their family or their identities or both — they are not heroes. The double-meaning here says all.

Guardians of the Galaxy is an emotional comedy, in outer space, with the best graphics and soundtrack you could wish for. Why wouldn’t you want to see it?

GotGmovie

 

Lucky for all of us the movie has been in theaters for a full run and the DVD is now available. If you were unable to see the movie in theatres that is unfortunate. I saw it seven times and each time amazed me. However, the DVD is widely available and I suggest that you watch it by either buying the DVD yourself or convincing a friend to do so and then crashing at his or her place while you watch it three times in a row. Just a suggestion.

Now, let’s take a walk through the film and realize what makes this film better than the rest. There are spoilers. Refer to previous paragraph. 

1.  Opening scene in the hospital. After his mother’s death, young Peter Quill runs out and stares back in disbelief at the chaos going on his mother’s hospital room, his hands open in front of him like a hopeless plea. I love this staging of Quill’s character. His open hands suggests naivety. He is too young to help out and had to be ushered out of the room. The rural setting suggests he doesn’t have much, and now he just lost the person closest to him. His hands are open in front of him, helpless, asking the eternal question “why”. It’s heartbreaking. And not until the end of the film, do you realize how much this event shaped him.

2.  Quill at Morag. I admit I was annoyed with this sequence because I think it could have been done more tactfully. However,  It does do a great job of introducing Star Lord, Peter Quill 26 years later. And it does so without words. It’s actually brilliant. Quill is reckless, sliding along crumbling rock surfaces and toying with alien rats. He’s pompous, but carefree. That minute in the film of him on Morag and walking to the orb says everything you need to know about Peter Quill. He’s an asshole, but just comical enough that you might actually like him.

quill

Smug

 

3.  And just after Quill leaves Morag, he gets a call from Yondu, leader of the ravagers. We finally learn what happened in those 26 years since his mom’s death and he was taken by a mysterious spaceship. Yondu Udanta made young Quill one of the ravagers. In their argument, it becomes vaguely understood that Quill was abducted by Yondu and his men, made to ravage and steal. Yondu’s argument for Quill’s compliance is that he stopped his men from trying to eat him. “They ain’t never tasted Terran before!” Suddenly you kind of like Quill a little more. He must have had a rough and confusing childhood. At least he’s still got a sense of humor.

All the feels.

It gets better though. The final battle – each of our guardians of the galaxy is wearing ravager clothing, having joined forces with the ravagers AND the Xandarian fleet (more on that later though). Soon, our pirates of the galaxy are pitching in to save it. Of course, there are lurking motives to the whole ordeal, and Yondu is eager to reap the benefits, but hey, the guardians still couldn’t have done it without him and his men.

yondu

You don’t like him, but you don’t hate him either.

4.  Ronan the Accuser. “They call me terrorist.” Yep. He’s your typical delusional bad guy. Fashioned with war paint and an enormous black ship called The Black Aster. He’s basically like a spoiled child, with religious loyalty to all the worst things. Here we have the greater evil. It’s a good thing he’s bad to the bone because so far we haven’t really met any heroes. And Star Lord, our lead character, certainly can’t be worse than the villain. Ronan is killing the children and families of Xandar, which is outside the peace treaty between the Xandarians and the Kree people. Wicked to the innocent. You already want to see this guy dead.

5.  Rocket and Groot on Xandar, just a couple of bounty hunters, bandits, what have you. Immediately you recognize their dependence on each other, two misfits, one bitter and the other gentle (with fierce abilities). There’s no history on how these two came to find each other, but you’re aware that its the perfect relationship. Rocket, in all of his anger and sharp words, has a deep caring and understanding for his partner in crime. And Groot, though he can only be understood by tonal expression rather than his words (limited exclusively to “I am Groot”) is the devoted friend and lifesaver of Rocket. The two form each other. It’s a beautiful relationship.

6.  A Xandarian encounter – In a comical mishap, Star Lord becomes the target of the Rocket and Groot  team and also Gamora, one of Ronan’s accomplices. In the mix up, Star Lord, Rocket, Groot, and Gamora all become captives of the Xandarians. We learn a little about each character’s dangerous skills and crime history during the mug shot scene. Each of these baddies have a record, and not one of them seems to give a damn. From there they’re all sent to the Kyln, a high-security prison which is pretty much a hopeless end for the group.

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7. The Kyln – These lucky losers are about to learn a lot about each other in the dreadful prison. Thrown together by spite, they learn that they might actually be able to take advantage of each other. And yes, they all have selfish motives. but first, we can’t ignore the loud, colorfulness of the Kyln. It’s supposed to be a hell hole, and it certainly looks it, but the prisoners wear bright yellow uniforms, and many of the prisoners have brightly colored skin. The ruckus the prisoners creates is an irksome music that plays pretty constantly. But if you compare this prison scene to most dramas, there’s something not quite depressing enough about it. Here’s some good foreshadowing. The Kyln is their escape from prison and ultimately a criminal lifestyle (I mean, somewhat). First, introductions. Gamora, who is despised as one of the daughters of Thanos and also as an accomplice of Ronan the Destroyer, reveals that she is actually on a mission to betray her false father and his servant. Rocket is a mastermind who can escape any predicament with the help of his faithful and life-saving friend Groot. And then there’s Peter Quill, a sloppy rebel with just enough tricks up his sleeve to make a plan.

The Kyln is also where Drax enters the picture. A large, angry man who vows revenge on Ronan and his accomplices for the murder of his wife and daughter. Gamora gets caught in his grip and our own reckless Peter Quill convinces Drax to let her live (for now). However, Drax’s inability to understand anything metaphorical makes Quill argument more of a challenge than expected, and of course much more humorous.

The Escape – The Kyln escape plan is an epic scene with enough comedy thrown in to make you remember that its really a bunch of misfits you’re rooting for. In this scene though, the escapees get the last laugh. After hijacking the control center and literally flying it out of the prison center, Quill, Gamora, Rocket, Groot, and now Drax are free. But Quill has one last mission. And to the soundtrack of “The Escape” Quill goes back for his one and only valued possession. The mix tape his mother made for him, Awesome Mix Vol. 1.

The Soundtrack – Awesome Mix Vol. 1 is the films narrator. Just as Quill lives and understands the world through the sound and lyrics of 70’s pop music, so will you. The cassette is Quill’s most valuable possession and the music gives him all the faith to carry on to the finish line. From Blue Swede to The Runaways, its obvious that there is a Romantic plot, because if we’re honest, our misfit band of heroes are an emotional melting pot. And also, the music is just badass.

Throughout the movie, there are several important scenes that make Guardians of the Galaxy a truly definitive movie. A cult classic I hope!

Nebula and Thanos – “Thanks, Dad.” Nebula’s sarcastic remark after Thanos openly admits Gamora was favored over her gives a side characters more than just a static position. She’s jealous and ambitious – a deadly mix.

Rocket’s bomb – Rocket’s boredom leads to the construction of a massive bomb. The smallest insecurities can have the most destruction. It’s symbolic as well that Rocket is small himself. This develops later on when they are waiting on Knowhere and Rocket threatens the guardians with his oversized gun, and drunkenly admits that he “didn’t ask to be made.” In one simple phrase, so much is revealed about our favorite furry bandit.

gun

After several mishaps on Knowhere, the team finds itself on Yondu’s ship. Here comes Star Lord’s epic ‘loser’ speech. The team found itself turned against one another, but as it turns out losers get each other. And that is how 12% of a plan saved Xandar.

… and this point I realized I’ve stopped counting. Just go with it.

Possibly the BEST ‘reunited and it feels so good epic walk to showdown’ scene ever created is when the guardians, dressed in borrowed ravager’s clothing, leave Yondu’s ship to follow the 12% plan. Gamora yawns, Rocket scratches his crotch, and the only one who looks remotely intimidating is Drax but that’s mostly because he’s blue and oversized – all of this to The Runaways “Cherry Bomb”. This is more than just comic relief. It’s a reminder that our heroes are regular nobodies in borrowed clothing. The costume doesn’t make the hero.

Finally, the best part. The Black Aster descends on Xandar and Yondu’s men, alongside the entire Xandarian fleet, pick the biggest fight they’ve ever seen. Ronan has the infinity stone and is basically unstoppable, but with Gamora’s insider information and the brute force of the rest of the guardians team, they board the ship and blast Rocket’s massively destructive bomb right at Ronan’s chest. Which doesn’t actually work.

And then the dying scene becomes the legendary “We are Groot” scene. Its absolutely touching, the ultimate sacrifice from someone who days before was only a stranger. It seems heroes are never meant to be alone, the best heroes are the ones who do it in teams, which is what makes the guardians so good.

we are

Groot sacrifices himself, but Ronan is still moments away from destroying an entire planet. So Quill, who basically becomes a dancing munchkin, unbelievably, totally comically, distracts Ronan for the seconds it takes for Rocket to blast the stone from his grasp.

An epic light show ensues, Quill delivers a great line, tricks Yondu once again, and the Guardians of the Galaxy blast off for another adventure. Good or bad, still unknown.

bitch

Criminals, ravagers, and the good men and women of the Xandarian fleet had to take one side, but they ended up saving a planet. This is better than the Avengers team because the thing is that these three forces were never meant to be on the same side. And they might not be again,  they certainly don’t seem like a good team, but for this one battle it was the perfect reason find the power in losers. Because at the end of it all, they were all losers. That didn’t change. But as we’ve already established. Maybe being a loser isn’t so bad.

and of course, dancing baby Groot is an eternal ray of sunshine. Because the guardians already lost and learned, and Groot is regenerative, it looks like a happy ending. For the most part.

end

Book to Box Office: The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner

2014

Directed by Wes Ball

Starring Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Will Poulter

Based on the novel by James Dashner

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IMBD Synopsis:

Thomas is deposited in a community of boys after his memory is erased, soon learning they’re all trapped in a maze that will require him to join forces with fellow “runners” for a shot at escape.

 

My Review:

As far as recent book to film adaptations, The Maze Runner had some major plot changes. I’m usually not against changes for film, and I agree with most of the scripted changes in the plot of this film. However, the most noticeable alteration was the timeline. Things moved extremely quickly in the film. Instead of three months, things were happening in three days. The change seemed unnecessary and much less believable, even for fiction.  The amount of knowledge Thomas discovered in three days after landing with no memory in a jungle full with wary boys, it hardly seems feasible, and therefore less entertaining to fantasize.

The other major change was the discovery of the exit to the maze. It is much more complicated in the book than in the film. The book’s solution required years of knowledge and mapping, cunning and teamwork. In the film, Thomas was even more of a superhero and was able to find a single clue that led them to the answer. I understand for the sake of movement in film and time limits, this change wasn’t altogether a horrible mistake. It had its merits and was an interesting concept, but I wish there had been more a of a team effort to to match the novels motif.

AND, since I can’t wait to mention it, the grievers; they were so completely different than what I imagined in the book. I can’t deny that I was a little disappointed. I got the impression that the filmmakers were a little bit lazy with this aspect of the movie. Making the grievers resemble giant mechanical spiders seemed like an easy fix to the complex and entirely original monster that Dashner described in his books. Then again, they were satisfyingly disgusting and terrifying. Many moviegoers commented that they didn’t believe the film would be so graphic in this way. I would like to believe the filmmakers mad this choice then to appease the faint-hearted moviegoers, and not because of a lazy, creative slump.

All of these things aside, the movie wasn’t too bad. It was certainly an  edge-of-the-seat kind of movie. The way it was filmed at just the right angle to make the maze looming, terrifying, and constantly ready to snap shut with its victim inside – well, that was pretty good. The maze felt alive, something that breathed, almost more so than the grievers. The casting was  a mix of ‘great’ and ‘okay’. O’Brien in the lead role was good, but lacked the frustrations of his curiosity and the unknown. Part of this I’m sure is the way the film was scripted, but it would have been nice to see O’Brien interpret some of that into his role instead of solely playing the stubborn and often ignorant hero. Alby, played by Alm Ameen, was broody and generous and a bit scared at all times. This is much how I imagined his character in the book. Lastly, Gally, played by Will Poulter, was a bit underdeveloped in my opinion, again due to scripting. Poulter did a good job with the role despite the scripting being a little generic. Thomas’s first interaction with Gally didn’t convince me that they would hate each other, yet that’s what audiences were led to believe.

Teresa’s role was even worse in the film than in the book. If they were only going to include the girl to cause trouble and not actually help solve anything, they should have left her out of the script entirely. That’s all I want to say about that.

Along with some well-chosen actors, the set design was amazing. I loved the layout of the maze and the glade. I actually liked it better than I had imagined it from my reading. And the costumes were another good feature of the film, the drab colors and similar design foreshadowed a bit to the organization that put the boys there and the reason.

This film is difficult to rate. The film alone was entertaining and I enjoyed watching it (two times actually). However, in comparison to the book, it made some unsatisfactory changes and failed to address my concerns about sexism from the book, actually making the situation worse. Am I the only one with this concern? I haven’t heard much talk about it elsewhere. Besides that, I would recommend the film to moviegoers, and I have heard many great responses to the film. As for fans of the book, be warned that it might not be what you expected, but it certainly isn’t a total failure. There are many redeeming qualities about this film in terms of its adaptation from the book.

I give The Maze Runner a 2.5 out of 5 stars

2.5 Stars

Book to Box Office: The Giver

Well Hellooooo

It has been a while hasn’t it? However, since my last post was about The Giver, I deemed it appropriate to make my return discussing its film adaptation.

The Giver

2014

Directed by Phillip Noyce

Starring Brenton Thwaites, Meryl Streep, and Jeff Bridges

Based on the novel by Lois Lowry

giver

IMDb Synopsis:

In a seemingly perfect community, without war, pain, suffering, differences or choice, a young boy is chosen to learn from an elderly man about the true pain and pleasure of the “real” world.

My Review:

I admit I had low expectations for this adaptation. The novel had a slow start, taking time to explore the beauty and terror of Utopia. Film is naturally designed to portray as much action without dwelling too long on backstory. Therefore, I anticipated many changes to Lowry’s original image.

Not to my surprise, the black and white world of deranged perfection haunted viewers for only the first quarter of the feature. However, I was pleasantly surprised that the blend of color and grayscale representation took place throughout the entire film. This rang true with the my own depiction of the story. And it’s just nice to see what I imagined taking place on screen.

The picture was beautiful, contrasting gray to color, and stillness to movement. The juxtaposition was alive.

The film featured some relatively large names, Bridges and Streep are quality actors of our time and their talent was not unnoticed. Even pop star Taylor Swift gets a small appearance. Brenton Thwaites, and up-and-coming actor played Jonas well. In the film version, Jonas is older than eleven, around sixteen instead. However, the few years don’t change too much about the character and I was pleased at Thwaites performance; he was inquisitive and excited.

As The Giver is an award-winning book, beloved by readers for decades, the changes made to the story for its film adaptation needed to be done carefully. The film rushed a bit through the history of the utopia as I mentioned earlier, but some other small adjustments were made as well. I’ve never been one to get upset when filmmakers tweak the story from the novel, and I can’t say changes made to The Giver upset me either. However, the film focused far too much on the child’s rebellion and the chase. It had a similar way of hooking the audience as recent films such as Hunger Games and Divergent. Lowry’s novel focused on the psychological struggles of what is right and wrong, the tension between joy and pain. Phillip Noyce took the film in a more popular direction, which arguably attracts a larger audience. I understand the shift in focus, and I honestly expected it, but the film simply didn’t possess the same heart-wrench and inner turmoil as the book.

I do recommend watching the film. It may be more meaningful to watch after reading the book because the film rushes viewers through some of the details. It’s a short book, you ought to read it anyway. It was a pleasant movie, sharing thematic elements with other recent popular films. It’s appropriate for children and engaging to all audiences.

I give The Giver 3 stars.

3 Stars

 

Read the book review here

 

Book to Box Office: The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars (2014)

written by Scott Neustadtar, Michael H. Weber, and John Green

Directed by Josh Boone

Starring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort

tfios film

IMBD Synopsis:

Hazel and Gus are two teenagers who share an acerbic wit, a disdain for the conventional, and a love that sweeps them on a journey. Their relationship is all the more miraculous given that Hazel’s other constant companion is an oxygen tank, Gus jokes about his prosthetic leg, and they met and fell in love at a cancer support group.

 

My Review:

As a highly anticipated film, I had certain expectations of this movie although I was careful not to put my expectations too high. The Fault in Our Stars delivered. I was not disappointed. In fact, I think I need to see it again.

First and foremost, for those die hard fans out there the film does a great job of following the book. Is it just me or are filmmakers finally understanding that fan viewers really like to see the story they read visually portrayed?  With that though does come some downfalls. I loved the fact that the story swayed very little from the book. But because it did so, I think the film lost some of its magic. It was less of an emotional journey as in the book readers were in the first person narrative of Hazel Grace, in the film not as much. Not just that, but there were definitely some ‘pleaser lines’ if you will. That is, the well-adored quotes from the book are loud and clear throughout the film, almost as if picking out the popular items from the novel and using them as items in the storyline to help sell it to the audience. It felt somewhat disconnected to me, like the story existed to tell these insights. I understand the audience will love it, but I didn’t think these insights were delivered with the personality the book intended. I was surprised that the title line, the quote that identifies the reasoning behind the popular title, was left out. Unless I just missed it?

As for the casting, Woodley and Elgort delivered the personalities of Hazel and Augustus perfectly. Woodley had the cool and distant demeanor and Elgort did a particularly good job with his facial expressions, which were slight but delivered quite the blow. These two are going to become headlining actors after their performance in Divergent and now The Fault in Our Stars. Personally, I think both Woodley and Elgort were more suited to the roles of Hazel and Augustus than they were meant for Tris and Caleb in Divergent.

During the film I was most looking forward to the confrontation between Peter Van Houten and Hazel and Gus. This scene was very good! Even though Peter wasn’t quite as I expected him, William DeFoe portrayed the actor with ideas I actually liked better than I originally imagined him. The scene followed as expected, but again, lost its touch of magic as we were outside Hazel’s thoughts and certain things, such as Peter’s assistant and the Swedish rap music, seemed underdeveloped in comparison to the novel.

The scene I was most impressed with actually followed the author confrontation scene. When Hazel, Gus, and Lidewij went to Anne Frank’s house. Whoa! the symbolism here and Hazel’s stubbornness were more dominant than what I remembered in the book. At one point the symbolism became a touch overdone, but I suppose the whole thing suited the taste of the film, following the major ideals and metaphor’s of the book. Hazel’s comparison to Anne Frank and their two stories, two struggles met in that house. I was impressed with the interpretations in this scene.

Even though I continue to say the film had less magic than the book, I understand that novel and film are two completely different mediums with two completely different ways of presenting a story. With each Book to Box Office Review I write, there is a certain difficulty comparing the two devices. While I was grateful for the filmmakers to keep the story so close to its original script, John Green’s book, I admit I wished to see a touch more interpretation. It’s one thing to make the characters move and say the same things as they do in the novel, but another to make the audience feel the same way about them. Josh Boone really did a superb job directing this film, but as usual, the novel holds more emotional impact than the film was able to deliver. Of course, I still shed a tear or two. It is an emotional story after all.

As for the elements of film, I’m much less educated to this aspect. However, I was constantly impressed with the costumes of all the characters. Isaac’s character probably surprised me the most, but it was a pleasant surprise as I realized I hadn’t spent too much time creating Isaac as a character while I read. Hazel’s loose, somewhat baggy, clothes suited a cancer-ridden frame of a sick child. She wore simple tees in basic, not-too-loud colors that suited her ‘whatever’, careful-not-to-get-too-close to anyone attitude. And Augustus wore that brown, leather jacket like a hero. It suited his athletic build – a shadow to his life before cancer, but it also reminded me of a fighter pilot, a motorcyclist, or some other action figure that perfectly suited Augustus’s consistent desire for heroism.

While I know little about the mechanics of film, other than operating a few digital projectors at work, I really enjoyed the way this film was shot. The scenes didn’t hover around the characters, but made them part of a larger picture. The images were sometimes blurred and bright – beautiful, simple, yet artistic. I don’t always notice the cinematography (I hope that is the right word), but the way The Fault in Our Stars was filmed seemed another artistic filter for the story directly. It is how Hazel and Gus would have imagined it, I believe.

Also, the soundtrack was. amazing. There are probably about thirty seconds of film that I entirely missed (is that Ray Lamontagne? It is, I’m sure of it. Oooh! I haven’t heard this song before – and so on).  Again, the soundtrack was another artistic element that persuaded the film to be a touch more of John Green’s beloved novel.

The Fault in Our Stars is a film that will please audiences whether they are John Green fans, only fans of The Fault in Our Stars, Woodley or Elgort fans, and even everyone else. It is emotional, but happy as well. You shouldn’t leave sad and you won’t cry uncontrollably so its probably okay for a date night movie. For those seeing it after reading the book, don’t pick it apart at the seams. It does follow the book nicely. You won’t be disappointed, but as a novel is a larger investment into character and plot development, don’t be too critical if you feel like that same spark isn’t in the film. It’s okay. Actually, it’s good.

I give The Fault in Our Stars, directed by Josh Boone a four out of five stars.

4 stars (2)

Read the book review here

Also on IMDB

seen the film? Looking forward to it? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Book to Box Office: Divergent

It’s big news. Divergent is here. Veronica Roth’s best-selling novel has been adapted into the screenplay every reader was dying to see. So, how did it do?

Divergent (2014)

Directed by Neil Burger

Written by Evan Daugherty, Vanessa Taylor, and Veronica Roth

and Starring Shailene Woodley, Theo James, and Kate Winslet

IMBD Synopsis:

In a world divided by factions based on virtues, Tris learns she’s Divergent and won’t fit in. When she discovers a plot to destroy Divergents, Tris and the mysterious Four must find out what makes Divergents dangerous before it’s too late.

Divergent

My Review:

I thoroughly enjoyed the film. It was entertaining and I was very happy to see it co-produced by Veronica Roth as it stuck very close to the original story. The set design and overall look of the film was beautiful. The post-war Chicago had a very dystopic feel to it that suited the story; it was the best vision of Roth’s Chicago as could be interpreted, in my opinion. 

I was unfamiliar with most all of the actors, but I was pleased with their performances. Shailene Woodley I am entirely unfamiliar with, but her timidness suited the abnegation character very well. I didn’t really perceive much of the Dauntless character in her, but I know that can be expanded in the sequels. Theo James as Four was a good pick, he was distant and harsh while still offering glimpses of deep emotion. I can’t say Tris and Four had great chemistry in the film, but to be fair, It wasn’t superb in the book either.

Another thing I really enjoyed about the film was the stunt-work. The zip-line in particular was fascinating, even better than I imagined it in my reading. There is a good amount of action in the film, along with some drama and a teensy bit of romance of course, but I actually enjoyed the scenes running to get on the train, jumping in the pit, and training in the compound. Along with the stunts, the technology was suiting to the dystopia. I thought the serums, the computers, and the weapons were a great vision of Roth’s novel.

Now, as much appealing as the image on the screen was, with the broken Chicago setting, inventive technology, and new stunts, I wasn’t overall impressed with the script of the film. I thought much of the dialogue seemed very bland, or at least it was delivered that way. There was little character development from dialogue. Instead, characters transformed suddenly without any spoken epiphany or the like. In the novel, at least readers had the first person perspective of Tris, but that seems to be lost in the film. Jeanine especially was a confusing character without the supportive plot development or Tris’s understanding that wasn’t shared with viewers. There wasn’t much supportive character development, Christina especially was left in the shadows of the main characters, Tris and Four. Lastly, the shooting of this film had one major flaw – an abundance of close-ups made me forget the story and wonder why they were shooting inches from these actors faces. Especially when these actors weren’t exactly giving oscar-winning performances. Hopefully in the sequel they will focus on the scene and not just the character.

 

Overall, I enjoyed the film. With a few distracting elements and a general blandness to the script, I have to argue that Divergent was a good movie, but not great. I definitely recommend watching it. Especially to those who read the books. The film will not disappoint readers. While some changes were made in the translation from novel to script, it is very formulaic to the book and does well choosing the best scenes for the film. The changes that do happen between the book and the film are minor and forgivable. It would be unrealistic to expect the movie to be exactly the same as the book, yet Divergent gets pretty darn close. Go watch it, this is a cinematic experience that will be worth your time.

I give Divergent 3.5 Stars

3.5 Stars

To read my review of Divergent by Veronica Roth, go here

Vampire Academy: Film Review

 Vampire Academy FilmVampire Academy

Directed by Mark Waters

Starring Zoey Deutch and Lucy Fry

Based on the novel by Richelle Mead

IMBD Rating: 6.9/10 Stars

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 9%

Opening Weekend: 3.9 million dollars

 

My Review:

If you haven’t already heard, Vampire Academy didn’t exactly succeed its opening weekend. Both critics and reviewers have been a bit harsh towards the film. After watching the film myself, well, I have to agree with the public.

The funny thing is, as little as I liked the book, I was more so impressed with the film. The casting was spot on. Rose, although I still hated her character, followed the novel very well. Even better in fact. One thing that made this movie better than the book was that the director, Waters seemed to understand exactly what Mead was going for in the novel and delivered it better than Mead was capable of in her writing.That is, Rose was actually kind of funny. Her sarcasm was rich throughout the film and yeah, I laughed once or twice. Even Lissa had a few shining moments, she wasn’t as weak as portrayed in the novel, which I have to believe was Mead’s true intention. I was also impressed with Natalie and Mia – for supporting characters, they were capable of taking some of the spotlight. Natalie’s scene in the jail with her uncle was brilliant although her relationship with Rose and Lissa was breezed through and seemed odd in the film. Mia matched Mead’s description as exact as I could have imagined; she was both cruel and pitiful. I loved to hate Mia much more in the film than I did the book. And I suppose I should mention, the male actors were as tempting as described in the novel. Dimitri, played by Danila Kozlovsky, was the best surly yet sexy guardian one could dream. If all you want is an easy flick with something (rather someone) pretty to look at. Sure, this movie might be the best 104 minutes of your life.

For the book lovers, the film follows quite close to the book. While I followed along perfectly fine. There was a ton of backstory packed into the film. For 104 minutes, viewers were expected to follow too many complicated plot twists. Hopefully the sequel is more about plot and character development rather than packing in stale information. I suppose it is forgivable of the first film, but I think there were scenes that weren’t necessary.

Overall, I liked the film. I liked it better than the book. I don’t think I’ve ever said that before, but I really believe Waters understood what Mead was intending to accomplish with her novel. Waters interpreted the story the way I wished it had been written – with real humor. Although, it could have done without all the drama. I thought the characters were cast perfectly, but too much of the backstory was distracting from the action. Even with all of the backstory pressed into the story, all supporting relationships seemed to be lacking spark.

I give Vampire Academy 2.5/ 5 stars.

2.5 Stars